Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
The National Agency for the Control of AIDS has said that truck drivers are among the highest carriers of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the country.
The Director-General of the NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said this in an interview with our correspondent on Friday.
Aliyu said that a survey showed that many truck drivers engaged in sexual activity without protection when they were far away from home and then returned to infect their spouses.
He explained that transport and allied workers were vulnerable to HIV but not sufficiently recognised as ‘most at risk populations, even as they serve as ‘bridge populations’ between the female sex workers and the general population, including their wives.
The NACA DG said this was what informed a project known as STOP: Strategic Travellers’ Outreach Programme.
He said, “The survey showed that a third of the transport workers had never used a condom and 70 per cent of them had between two and five partners in the last one year. So there is significant high risk sexual activity.
“As a result of the survey we decided to meet with partners. There was a need to invest more resources in fighting HIV in hotspots related to the transport sector.”
Aliyu said the fact that ECOWAS countries allowed free movement of persons and goods had made it easier for the virus to spread among the citizens of the affected countries.
He said this was what informed the decision of the Federal Government and some ECOWAS nations to set up the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Organisation which comprises Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria
Aliyu said that NACA had been able to set up some units at major transport hubs in Sagamu, Ogun State; and Obollo-Afor in Enugu State. He added that the transport hubs at Wudil in Kano State and Obajana in Kogi State would also be part of the programme in the near future.
The NACA DG added that there would be a national survey on HIV to ascertain the number of persons affected by the disease.
He said, “It will hold sometime in June across the country. We have divided the country into six geo-political zones and we will be taking one state per zone each month. We hope to finish between December and January, but certainly before the elections start.
“The survey will give us a true picture of the prevalence of HIV. It will also provide us with information about hotspots so that we can redirect resources, particularly the resources of partners, because as you probably know. There has always been a debate about the true prevalence of HIV in Nigeria.”
In his remarks, The Country Director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Dr. Erasmus Morah, said there was a need for security agents to exercise caution when dealing with sex workers.
He said since it had been established that sex workers were among the key drivers of the HIV epidemic, there was a need to collaborate with them and not hound them.
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